COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — South Carolina lawmakers have established a Teacher Recruitment and Retention Task Force to figure out ways to solve the state’s teacher shortage crisis.

According to Proviso 1.114, they will study and consider policies that increase recruitment to the teaching profession, improve teacher preparation, transform compensation for teachers, enhance the effectiveness of teacher evaluation, improve working conditions for all teachers and identify best practices from others states and design them for South Carolina.

We spoke with educator groups in South Carolina who will recommend some members of the task force. Palmetto State Teachers Association (PSTA) Director of Governmental Affairs Patrick Kelly said this task force could not come at a better time.

“We can talk all we want about learning loss and disruptions in the age of COVID,” said Kelly. “Until we can ensure a high quality teacher in every classroom, we cannot start reversing those trends.”

Kelly said teacher recruitment and retention problems are fueled by four “big-bucket” issues: lack of respect for the profession or declining respect, lack of adequate time to do the job, lack of support for professional growth, and inadequate compensation.

“You take those four and address them, I think you can find the kind of comprehensive solutions to recruit great talent into the profession and retain South Carolina’s best and brightest,” Kelly said.

According to the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA), a mid-year supply and demand report released in February 2022 shows there were more than 1,100 vacant teaching positions.

The supply and demand report for this new school year is expected to be released later this year or early next year.

South Carolina Education Association President Sherry East said she’s hopeful the recommendations from the task force will help turn things around.

“Every minute that a child goes without a qualified teacher in front of them is a minute their not learning to the level they need to be learning or it’s disruptive,” said East.

Last week, Governor Henry McMaster announced his three appointments to the task force.

Former state Superintendent of Education Dr. Barbara S. Nielsen will serve as chair of the task force.

Upon the recommendation of the South Carolina School Boards Association, the Governor appointed Abbeville County School Board of Trustees member Tim Rhodes. Upon the recommendation of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators, the Governor appointed Superintendent of the Edgefield County School District Dr. Kevin O’Gorman.

Recommendations from the task force are required to be sent to the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House by May 31st, 2023.

You can read the full proviso below:

1.114.      (SDE: Teacher Recruitment and Retention)  (A)  The Department of Education shall convene a task force to examine and propose necessary revisions for improving teacher recruitment, retention, and advancement.
     (B)      The task force shall be comprised of the following individuals who each should have background and expertise in education:
           (1)      one member appointed by the Governor; who shall serve as Chair of the task force;
           (2)      the State Superintendent of Education or his designee,
           (3)      one member of the South Carolina House of Representatives appointed by the Chair of the House of Representatives Education and Public Works Committee;
           (4)      one member of the South Carolina Senate appointed by the Chair of the Senate Education Committee;
           (5)      one member appointed by the Chair of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee;
           (6)      one member appointed by the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee;
           (7)      one member appointed by the Chair of the Board of the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office;
           (8)      one member appointed by the Governor upon recommendation of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators;
           (9)      one member appointed by the Governor upon recommendation of the South Carolina School Boards Association;
           (10)      two members appointed by the Commission of Higher Education.       Both appointments shall be employed as a Dean or Interim Dean of a College of Education at an institution of higher learning.  One appointee shall be from a public institution, and one shall be from a private institution;
           (11)      the current South Carolina State Teacher of the Year;
           (12)      three current classroom teachers, with at least one representative from each of the groups listed below, with direct instructional responsibilities, and at least one of which is employed at a Title I school, to be appointed by the Superintendent of Education upon the recommendation of the:
                 (a)      Palmetto State Teachers Association;
                 (b)      South Carolina Education Association; and
                 (c)      South Carolina Alliance of Black School Educators;
           (13)      a current participant in the Teaching Fellows program appointed by the Center for Educator Recruitment and Retention; and
           (14)      a representative from SC TEACHER appointed by the Dean of the College of Education of the University of South Carolina.
     (C)      Members of the task force shall receive no compensation but may receive per diem and mileage from the South Carolina Department of Education as provided for boards and commissions.
     (D)      In examining necessary revisions and improvements to the education profession, the task force must consider factors including:
           (1)      public input gathered through meaningful consultation with teachers, principals, district officials, education preparation programs including both alternative and traditional higher education providers, and members of the public, including conducting hearings to gather public input;
           (2)      research on how teacher salary structures can:
                 (a)      improve teacher recruitment and retention;
                 (b)      incentivize methods used within the teaching profession which have an evidence-based impact on student achievement; and
                 (c)      address staffing shortages in critical needs geographic and content areas;
           (3)      assistance from the Southern Region Education Board, Education Commission of the States, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National Center on Education and the Economy regarding educator recruitment, retention, and advancement from high performing jurisdictions; and
           (4)      information provided from the Working Conditions Survey administered by SC TEACHER.
     (E)      The task force must submit recommendations for potential reforms to the Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the President of the Senate by no later than May 31, 2023.  Recommendations shall include, but not be limited to, the following areas:
           (1)      increasing recruitment to the teaching profession;
           (2)      improving teacher preparation;
           (3)      transforming compensation for teachers;
           (4)      enhancing the effectiveness of teacher evaluation;
           (5)      improving working conditions for all teachers; and
           (6)      identifying best practices from other jurisdictions and designing them for South Carolina.